Last night, for the first time, I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey. You’d think that would be an easy lead-in to a clip of Bowie singing Space Oddity, but no, you’d be wrong.
I had never seen 2001 before last night. I’d seen clips on television, even some of the longer scenes. The movie was for me a collection of images: the black slab, the old man in the bedroom, the ill-conceived apes who seem so ridiculous now in the behaviour they are made to portray (it is a very unenlightened view of apes). The vague pieces of dialogue: “I’m sorry, Dave. But I can’t do that.”
So what struck me about seeing 2001 — which was only one half of a double feature at a local art house cinema/film institute, the second half of which was the 1972 version of Solaris in Russian with English subtitles — is how nice it is to just watch a movie with no words. Sometimes, we just need a break from words. Words are so clunky and you never have enough once you get going. But sometimes, the lack of words is just what you need. It gives your brain a serious break.
Last night, I regretted that I had a job that requires me to push out words. And push out words. And that I was eventually, five and a half hours of movie watching later, going to have to go home, sleep, wake up, and push out more words. But I resolved to give myself, from now on, more deliberate periods of time during the day when I just stay away from words. A daily word break.
When Solaris started, by the way, it was a rude shift to subtitles that required not only listening to words but reading words and even, late into the film, long scenes about philosophy. Too many words!
So here’s where we get to Bowie. Art without words. Yeesh, he’s done everything, hasn’t he?
I wanted to find a different version of this but none of the live versions really compare to the original. The Low version has its own defined space and time that can’t really be replicated.
Postscript: today is a new day, and this afternoon, words don’t seem so awful. Here’s David describing (I think) the cover art for Heathen, which sets him off on a somehow-pleasing, not-arrogant discussion of philosophy and where we’re going (or not) as a species and human race… starting at about 1:30 or so.